Bill Black, Bob Hampton, Don Maxwell, Mike Long, Ray Smith and Tina Leikam receive awards at installation dinner

What do Bill Black and Bob Hampton have in common?

They both pick up trash, for one thing, but both do a lot more to make Taft a better place to live.

Black and Hampton were among six people singled out by the Taft District Chamber of Commerce Thursday night for special honors for their ongoing service not only to the chamber and business community, but to the community as a hole.

Black received a special community service award.

Hampton's Westside Waste Management was named Business of the year and Hampton himself was singled out for a special surprise honor for everything he does for the chamber.

They received their awards along with Ray Smith, Acme Jewelry (Business Man of the Year), Tina Leikam, Domino's Pizza (Business Woman of the Year) Don Maxwell, West Kern Oil Museum (Volunteer of the Year) and Mike Long, Laborers of the Harvest (Volunteer of the Year).

New Supervisor David Couch was the speaker for the annual event, held this year at the West Side Recreation and Park District's community center auditorium.

Just a month after being sworn in as the new Fourth District Supervisor, Couch got a round of applause when he talked about stepping up code enforcement in unincorporated Taft.

"This is something we are going to concentrate on," he said "We're going to get the ball rolling on some of these places you know need to be knocked down."
Couch didn't carry Taft when he was elected last June in the primary election, but that doesn't matter.

"I didn't win in Taft," he said. "But I'm going to win over Taft."

He said the county needs to move very carefully when it comes to taxes and fees and keep regulations in check.

"There are some regulations that are necessary. There are some that aren't," he said. "We are going to be very mindful of the difference."

He also pledged to help Taft try to expand its healthcare infrastructure.

"We will work diligently with you to try to obtain appropriate medical services for your community," he said.

After Couch's adress, the awards began.

Hampton's company picks up trash inTaft and the surrounding unincorporated areas through franchise agreements with The City of Taft and Kern County. It will mark it's 30th year in Taft in May

But Hampton and his employees do a lot more than what the contract requires. Hampton has spearheaded cleanup efforts around the community and he is a major contributor to many civic organizations.

"Clearly, Bob cares about his hometown," Chamber Executive Director Kathy Orrin said. "He has been a member of Taft Rotary for 26 years, and has been instrumental in the establishment of the newly-formed Westside Healthcare Foundation, which he serves as Chairman. Currently, Bob serves on the County Assessment Appeals Board, a position he has held since 1998. He is President of the Taft College Foundation, and he has been part of the Chamber forever."

The dinner crowd of 150 people gave Hampton a prolonged standing ovation when the special award was announced.

It's his underwriting of the chamber that won him special recognition.

He makes sure the chamber has a large enough office to operate out of, and then pays for the building and all expenses so the chamber can spend more time on its mission of promoting Taft instead of fundraising.

"I don't know how many of you realize that the Chamber resides in its current building rent free, property tax-free, cleaning and landscaping costs free, and building insurance cost free," Orrin said. "If that were not enough, we were the happy recipients of a beautiful, bigger, lighted sign last year."

He has been a member of the chamber for 26 years.

Black has been retired for 18 years after nearly 40 years in business with his brother, the late Glenn "Dolder" Black.

He often goes for early morning walks, and turns his exercise into a community service.

"When Bill is in town, you can see him early in the morning, walking the thoroughfares of Taft, picking up trash, garbage, and debris that doesn't belong," said Orrin, who presented Black with his award. "He truly exemplifies his honor, Community Service Award Recipient of the Year."

Maxwell retired as director of maintenance, operations and transportation for the Taft City School District and is now in charge of volunteers for the West Kern Oil Museum.

Smith's jewelry store is a fixture in downtown and he was singled out for his willingness to help his customers.

Long joined Laborers of the Harvest with his father-in-law, the late Rev. Sam White, and is now the leader of the organization that provides free food to the needy in Taft.

Liekam was honored for her many community activities centering around church and school in addition to being a businesswoman and mother.

The chamber also recognized its new officers and board members.

Dennis Schertz is the president for 2013 with Bob Leikam (Tina's husband) a vice president and Ed Herrera is 2nd vice president.

Adele Ward is treasurer and Michael Long is past president.

New board members Manny Campos, Greg Hill, Sandy Koenig, Jordan Miller, Verlen Love, Ron Sousa and Rodney Wikoff were installed joining current board members Devinder Bains, Tracy Chitwood, Les Clark III, Hampton, Orchel Krier, Lorrie Loder, Dena Maloney, John Neumann, Harry Starkey, Dan Tosti and Mike Waiczis.